Thursday, September 16, 2010

It takes time to transform a confined living space into a comfort zone without emptying your wallet, but it can be done! Turn your small apartment into a fun place to be, and relax in style.

Decorating a small apartment on an even smaller budget can be a tricky task. The goal is to create a living area that is comfortable and enjoyable, while at the same time maximizing your space and minimizing the amount of cash spent on the whole design project.


Where to start? First thing's first: step back, and take a good look at your living space. Perhaps you've already got a few design ideas in mind. But, will these ideas work within your small apartment? If they don't initially, there's a chance that you can make them work with some adjustments. For example, you may have to sacrifice a chair that you are fond of, if you are going to have room for that really comfortable sofa. If you are considering the purchase of a large mirror that will take up too much space on the wall, look for something similar, but smaller.


So, what exactly is a decor theme? A decor theme creates fluidity in a design project. It can includes a harmony of colors, furniture styles, artwork, and accessories. Overall, this harmony should promote comfort, making your space a relaxing place to live. A decor theme helps to tie a room, or an entire apartment together. When developing your theme, simply work with what you enjoy; something that you've enjoyed for years, or a style that intrigues you.

There's a good chance that you already have a decor theme going. Are you a collector of sports memorabilia, elephants, Asian decor, anything? Do you love the color blue or red? Your theme may be right under your nose!

Suppose that you collect old movie posters from the 1930's, for example. Work the posters into a vintage theme. Find shining chrome retro appliances on sale, faux art deco sculptures to place on your bookshelf, and used vintage books to place on your coffee table.

Do you fill your bookcase with Roman history texts or Greek mythology books? Look for paintings, rugs, etc. with an archaic or neoclassical theme -- and you don't have to pay a fortune for them either! I will get to that in a bit. Whether it's country floral, plaid prints, safari, southwestern, rustic, industrial steel decor, or anything else really that interests you, the selection of a decor theme will keep you on track and will prevent your decor from taking on an inharmonious look.

Brainstorm and write down your ideas... seriously, you've got a strong beginning already!

You can have two small apartments of the same size and same layout, with the same furniture inside both, and one apartment will look and feel larger than the other. It's all about arrangement. When working with a limited space, arranging your belongings along the walls will open up the center of a small room. When the center of a room is broken up, you get a cluttered look, that gives a feeling of confinement.

If your small apartment has large windows, use them to your advantage! Let as much sunlight shine in as possible. If you are concerned about privacy, use sheer curtains made of fabrics that obscure the interior of your space, but still manage to infuse your rooms with light.

Here's a painting tip that will help you to make the best of your small space: The application of a light color to your walls will make your room seem larger than it truly is. If your ceilings seem too low, paint them a color lighter than the walls. This will make the ceiling seem higher. If you paint the walls a lighter color than the ceiling, the room itself will seem larger.

You can also convey the illusion of space with mirrors. The effect is subtle, but you'll find that mirrors are functional in more than one way. They work well in narrow hallways, and hung on the narrowest walls of rectangular rooms.

Space Savers

Today's designers respond to the needs of apartment dwellers, and those living in small spaces. You can find space--saving furniture and housewares that are not only affordable, but stylish too.
Modular shelving units have become increasingly popular. They are customizable and easy to assemble, so it's not too difficult to set them up and move them around when you want to do some re-arranging. You'll find modular shelving units made of different materials, like wood, molded plastic, and even vertical mesh units that hang in your closet or on the back of your door.

Slimline items are made with the preservation of space in mind. Many are made for the kitchen: narrow water pitchers, toasters, trash cans, etc.
Folding screens work well in studio apartments. Use one or several to partition off part of a room.

Travel trunks add a sense of adventure and age to a room's decor. They can also double as coffee tables! Find them at re-sale shops -- trunks often look better worn in and you'll save a considerable amount of cash too. Also, keep an eye out for items like chairs and tables with inside storage.

A bed takes up a considerable amount of space. If you're only using this space for a few hours at a time, why not get it out of the way for the rest of the day? Do this with a Murphy bed, which is mounted on a mechanism, and vertically folded into a cabinet, up and out of the way. A loft bed is another space-saver. Loft beds are elevated, so you'll be climbing up to catch some z's. If you've never seen a loft bed, imagine a short bunk bed with only one bed on top. This leaves ample room for storage or seating underneath. If you want a cheap bed that doubles as a sofa, a folding futon may be your best bet. That, or a day bed.

Bargain Hunting

So, where are you going to find all these neat items to decorate your apartment? If you want to save money, you'll have to hunt for them. Bargain hunting takes time, but when you find that perfect table for your living room at a fraction of it's original cost, you won't mind the effort. Bargains are found all over, but you've really got to look, often wading through endless merchandise to find your gem. On the rare occasion, you get lucky, and that perfect item seems to fall into your lap.
Resale Shops
You'll find resale items at consignments shops and thrift stores. A consignment shop accepts unwanted items, and when those items sell, the original owner receives a percentage of that money. With thrift stores, it can be difficult to find what you're looking for, but be persistent. Find a store that you like and check back with them often. Keep in mind that in most cases returns will not be accepted, so take the time to really inspect your find before you buy it.

Flea Markets
Yet another great place to find cheap vintage items! You'll find flea markets held on public grounds, many on weekends. To get the best selections, get out there early.

Estate Sales
Estate sales are good places to make unique finds. Check your local paper for listings.

Garage Sales
It's often that garage sale items are very inexpensive, because sellers are moving or trying to save space, and they just want to get rid of their unwanted belongings.

Liquidation Sales
When you hear that a store is closing and slashing prices to liquidate inventory, get there early to find the best items. The store may continue to lower their prices throughout the sale, but don't hold out on that special item. It may not be there when you return, and the store probably won't have more in stock.

Online Auctions
One of the coolest things about online auctions is that there's so much stuff out there, and many people are willing to sell that stuff to you at very low prices. And where else can you bid on cheap and obscure items in your pajamas?

With your design ideas and new-found money-saving know-how, create a space that is both comfortable and enjoyable. Many apartment dwellers don't hang out at home because they feel confined there. Why not turn your small space into a haven where you can relax and re-charge... especially knowing how much money you saved!

Want more tips? Click here for more info on designing on a budget without breaking the bank!! A definite recommendation! :)

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  1. Great post! really in depth and a ton of great ideas, particularly the space savers! I did a recent blog entry about decorating for the holiday season here
    on a tight budget if you'd like to check it out ;)

  2. Hi there! This is a really good overview on tips for optimizing small spaces. I'm a newlywed, and I hope we can apply a lot of ideas like these as we settle into our humble home.

    Your point about mirrors is right-on. That's one of the best ways I've found to open up small spaces. I found, and they are a great source for a floor mirror ( or wall mirrors (

    Thanks again for the great tips!